Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I've been a bad blogger

It's been way to long since I've written anything here. Here's what's going on:

I'm doing lots of gigs with BOC. Fortunately, our busy season got extended a bit, which is totally fine by me.

I'm still working on the MorningStarlett album. It's hard to coordinate everyone's schedules, but I think I can safely say that as of next week, all of the instruments will be done and all that will by left to do is vocals.... and maybe some extra added effects here and there.

After that I'm scheduled to mix the bad mouth Bettie's cd which will be equally awesome.

I've been getting a lot of studio work and that has been a welcome challenge for me. The work has been diverse and fun.

I'm starting to get the itch to do some more tiger's fang, but I promised myself that I would complete a few legit music projects before returning to my hobby of making over-produced, under-watched you tube movies.

In terms of gear, I got some exciting things coming up. I have a secret guitar in the works, and I'm looking forward to sharing info about it when it's completed. I also just finished the process of retro-fying my rickenbacker 12 string. I'm looking forward to recording with that. I've also been using a Music Man Steve Morse Y2d model on some of my gigs. I bought this guitar because it was purple, but I ended up really liking it. It's nothing like the axis. It has 5 very different sounds and the output is lower which causes the guitar to clean up a lot easier.

On a non musical note, I was invited to beta test star wars: the old republic. I Liked it a lot, but I was expecting a bit more with all the hype this game has received. I will still be playing it at launch and I'm sure I'll have loads to write about once we start playing.


Friday, July 8, 2011

New Song!

I just posted a new song and video on Youtube.  The song is called Shazam, and is performed by Danny Miranda, Jules Radino and me. This is basically a more fleshed out version of a demo song I did for Peavey's Revalver.  We recorded this a couple of months ago, but I wasn't able to mix it until now, because I had a flood in my studio.  If I get enough hits on this song, that might persuade us to record some more songs like this.

Check it out!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's OK to dance to live music

I've been observing the audiences at various gigs.  Not only audiences at shows I play, but also the audiences at shows that I go see.  I'm not talking about concerts, but club dates (weddings, bar mitzvahs) and bar gigs. After a couple years of observing, something has become clear to me.  This current generation only dances to pre-recorded music. Believe me, this isn't a blog intended to slag DJs.  I have friends who are DJs, and they're very talented and good at what they do. I just think it's conditioning from childhood that has caused this problem.

It first dawned on me when I was doing a gig at a club.  We just played a Michael Jackson dance song, and I thought we did a pretty good job of it.  People were into it.  They watched intently, and then applauded loudly at the end.  We then took our between-set break, and the DJ took over.  The DJ played Michael Jackson.  All of the sudden everyone started dancing.  Huh?!?  Ok, maybe we just had an off night or maybe the sound wasn't great.  But then I saw it happen at a Wedding.  A fantastic wedding band was playing.  I was very impressed by how great they were. No one danced to them.  As soon as the DJ comes on people start dancing.   What's going on here?

A lot of people I have spoken to about this subject say it's the bass. The DJs can pump the bass more than a band. But this is not necessarily true.  In fact most bands bring way more PA gear than DJs, and on top of that some of these bands are using kick drum triggers and synth bass to get that same low end response.  So, I ruled that out.  It's not a sonic thing.  And since I thought the band was really great, I ruled out talent being the issue.

So why do kids only dance to pre-recorded music?  Well, I think there are a couple of reasons.

First, parents find ways to pacify kids with TV.  Cartoons in particular are very pattern heavy.  In many cartoons, the same exact thing happens every day.  It almost becomes ritualistic. Drive something into a kid's head enough times, it becomes hard to break the pattern.  (Disclaimer:  I know nothing about psychology, but this just seems kind of obvious to me.)  The connection with live music is that a lot of kids get so used to hearing a song a certain way, that they can't accept a different version, no matter how good it may be.

Second.  I don't think kids are exposed to live music as much as they should be.  Nowadays, every kids party has a DJ or an ipod going.  It's not that kids aren't interested in live music.  (Put a set of drums in front of any kid, and you'll pique their interest.)  It's just that they don't see enough of it.

Third, Dance clubs don't have bands anymore.  I realize that nowadays you MUST have a DJ at a club, but that further reinforces the fact that DJs are for dancing, and bands are not.

So what's my point?  Next time you see a band and they're good, feel free to shake it!  If you're a parent show your kids some live music. It's good for em!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Metalheads Unite!

So I'm at the pharmacy today. As I go to the checkout counter there's a young man (probably in his early 20s) behind the cash register.  As I step up in line, he notices my Van Halen t-shirt and says to me, "Van Halen is not cool."  So I reply, "Oh yeah?"  He says, "No they're not cool, but at least they're not as bad as Dragonforce."  I didn't feel the need to get into a musical debate at the checkout counter, so I just smiled and got my change.  As I was walking out, I thought what would prompt someone to say something like that out of the blue? Then it hit me. This guy is obviously passionate about heavy metal.  When he's not wearing his blue apron with the white name-tag, he probably sports a variety of black t-shirts with detailed illustrations of dragons, demons, skulls, and the name of some obscure metal band that only plays in Sweden written on top to look like the words are bleeding.  He saw me with a metal t-shirt (or hard rock...whatever) and thought, "Hey there's a guy who likes metal! I want to share my enthusiasm with him.  What's the best way to do that? I know!  I'll tell him the band he likes sucks!"

My point is not that metal fans are argumentative morons.  My point is that there's a large group of people who are passionate about hard rock and heavy metal, and instead of banding together, they spend most of the time bickering. I can't tell you how many times I've heard students tell me they can't form a band with their friends because they don't like the same type of metal. "Well, I like power metal, but the singer likes death metal, and the drummer only plays hardcore."  I hear this sort of thing over and over.  Instead of refusing to cross sub-sub-genres (that's not a typo), why don't you just start a fucking metal band?

I went to see Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden, and you know what?  It was a sold out show!  They've never had a hit song, they never get played on MTV, and I almost never hear them on the radio, but right in front of me we're 20,000 heavy metal fans! There is an army of metal fans out there, but they're so determined to argue with each other that it makes the genre of heavy metal seem so small when compared to pop or r&b.  Aren't you tired of hearing auto-tuned garbage everywhere? We should unite and show people that we are a huge community of people that appreciate real bands with real singers and good musicianship.

Do I think a simple blog post will change people's thinking?  No. But just imagine how things would be if it did.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

gigs...recordings....movies....Oh my!

I have a bunch of local NY stuff coming up.  I haven't done a Staten Island gig since the Spinal Tap tribute on Halloween.  I'm looking forward to the next few months.

On Wednesday, March 16th, I'm playing at the Full Cup on Van Duzer Street in Staten Island with Baby Johnson.  Baby Johnson is the band I play with at the Red Lion in Manhattan. The best way I could describe a Baby Johnson gig is: "A party band where anything goes." Hopefully the Staten Island people will be crazier than the Manhattan people.  We'll see!  The show starts at 8 PM and they're promoting as a pre-St Patty's day bash.  The band for that show will be Russ Jones, Andy Ascolese and Vinny Cimino.

Next on the list is Epic and Triumphant return of MorningStarlett.  On Wednesday, April 13th at 10 PM, we will be playing the Trash Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  MorningStarlett is actually in the process of recording an album.  We began production in January and things sound really great so far.

After that I have a trio gig booked at Uncle Bourbon's In Staten Island on Bay Street.  This will take place on Thursday, April 21.  This show will feature and Danny Miranda (of Queen, and Meatloaf) and Andy Ascolese.  We're gonna do a lot of guitar based stuff, so if you like shredding, this is the show to go to.  I may also sneak in a few originals as well.

I'm trying to get my music online.  I made a account, but I'm learning it takes some time before it shows up in the radio stream.  If anyone is into and has any of my stuff on their music playing device, do me a favor and give it a scrobble!

Aside from all of the gigs and recording projects, I'm also knee deep in Tiger's Fang!  We're gonna have a release party in late April.  Details To Be Announced!


Saturday, January 29, 2011


I've been selling some stuff on ebay.  It's been a mostly positive experience. I have been noticing that their policies are extremely slanted towards the buyers though. I understand the need for buyer protection, but isn't it just as scary to be in the seller's position?  People scam ebay all the time. It's real leap of on the seller's part to send something out in the mail without having the cash first.  The problem is that Paypal always sides with the buyer.  When you send an item out, a buyer send a payment to paypal, but paypal holds that payment for a short period of time before adding it to your account.  All the buyer has to do is say they never got it.  This seems like too big of a security flaw to ignore on paypal's part.  They need to figure out a new way to verify this.  Maybe work with UPS or Fedex to confirm delivery and the contents of a package?  Actually that would solve everything. Here's my proposal:

1. On your ebay sale demand that buyers must agree to "double verified shipping" for an additional cost to be paid to the shipping company.

2.  When someone buys your item on ebay, they send their money to paypal who holds the money.  Once paypal has the money, you can ship the item.

3.  Go to a shipping company store like Fedex or UPS.  Present them with ebay item number or even a barcode to scan off your phone.

4.  They enter this item number into a computer and then verify that the item you're shipping out is the item on the ebay auction (serial numbers will be important here if they're available.) 

5.  Once they click verify, the shipping labels automatically print out.  This ensures that the item will be shipped to the location the seller has indicated in the transaction.

6.  Once the item's tracking number is confirmed as being delivered, the seller gets the money.

Now, of course there are times when sellers send broken items or stuff that doesn't exactly match up with the descriptions.  When this happens the buyer must continue the double verification process and mail the item back to the seller.  When the package is confirmed as being delivered back to the seller, then (and only then) will the buyer get a refund.

That's one idea I have.  The next one, I'm borrowing from Steve Corn.

Sniping is a big problem on ebay if you ask me.  It hurts everybody. If you're at work or on plane when an auction is ending, you can pretty much forget it (unless you enter a million dollars as your bid.)  People wait until the last minute to start bidding in the hopes that no one else will bid.  I think the reason people put stuff on ebay auctions is to encourage bidding.  Sniping hurts sellers who are looking for an honest auction, and it hurts buyers who can't be there at the last 2 minutes of an auction.  Here's the idea to fix this:

All initial bids will be closed 1 hour before the auction ends. Only re-bidding (or adding a higher bid) will be allowed in that last hour.  This means that if something has been up for a week, and you want it, you have to put a bid on it right there and then. You can still wait until the last second to adjust your bid, but you will only be able to do this if you've already put a bid in prior to one hour before the auction ends.  That will effectively kill sniping and help sellers get a fair deal.

There you go.  2 ideas that will improve the ebay sellers experience

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Big NAMM Blog

Here it is. The Big NAMM Blog.  Here are some thoughts, impressions and other kinds of brain spew.

After leaving the NAMM show, the one thing I keep thinking was, "Man, I wish I had cool hair!" This year, more than ever, the NAMM show was taken over by the Hollywood rock scene. Sure, this means there were some great musicians floating around from various LA bands, but on the whole it meant that the show was flooded with tattooed autograph seekers with dyed black hair, facial metal, black leather, and in some cases brightly colored contact lenses and/or kiss makeup. Don't get me wrong, I think the look is cool, and I don't mind seeing women walking around with corsets so tight that their chests become boob-shelves, but in the end it was circus that obscured what NAMM is really about.  Most of the people I saw were obsessed with celebrity to the point where it was disruptive. 

When I first started attending NAMM in 1993.  It was a very different show. The companies brought everything they had, and they all had booths on the main floor.  There was live music everywhere.  On a given day on the convention floor, you could see Frank Gambale, Joe Pass, Jeff Berlin, and Steve Morse just jamming at different booths. Autograph lines were short. Everything was hands on.  Now it's a very different show, and the spirit of NAMM has really changed. Autograph lines wrap around booths several times. They have to put people there to direct traffic around these huge lines. The biggest lines are always for the 80s bands.  The sad result of all of these autograph seekers attending the shows is that these great 80's musicians like Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, and Ritchie Sambora can't go to the NAMM show because it would cause too much chaos.  

Another big difference is the actual content of the booths.  Many companies only bring a small sampling of what they have, and most of that is behind glass cases or tied down so you can't use it (because the punters might steal something.)  What they do have is a big flat screen with a "What's New" presentation.  I guess in the end it gets the job done, but it's not as much fun.

The layout has also changed a lot. Now many companies are pulling their displays off the main floor and moving them to rooms in other areas of the convention center, or in some cases, out of the convention center completely. Every year, I also feel like fewer companies show up to NAMM. I would have loved to try out some Native Instruments stuff this year, but they weren't here.

I don't want to give the wrong impression here. NAMM was great. It was just really tough to accomplish anything on Friday and Saturday when the convention center was raided by celebrity hunters and Criss Angel lookalikes.

Now, onto the meat and potatoes....GEAR!!!!

I saw more cool stuff on Sunday than I saw Thursday, Friday & Saturday combined!  Overall, there weren't any huge innovations, just little tweaks here and there.  The biggest trends I saw were: Gear that can receive settings from the web, iPad music apps, new guitars that look beatup, looping, better sample libraries, big things in small packages, and things being overpriced.

Let's start with the overpriced thing. Not all companies, but many companies think that their products are like water in the desert. A tele-style guitar shouldn't be $25,000. That's ridiculous. A sample library shouldn't be $2,500.  A control surface, with no audio passing through it, shouldn't be $5,000. A stomp box shouldn't be $500.  These companies are nuts, and dlusional. I could get an original Fender tele from the 60s or 70s for less than 25k. I could hire musicians for a lot less than the 2.5k they're asking for a sample library. In general I think it's out of hand.  Especially given the fact that people don't have that kind of money to spend these days.

The iPad thing was crazy this year.  Everyone wants to do music on their iGadgets.  Some iPad apps were cool.  The ability to remotely control your mixer is very handy. I think passing audio through the iPad is not the greatest idea. Sure, it's a fun thing to do as a gimmick, but it's not really practical yet.  Although to be honest, if they came out of with any kind of audio app for Android, I would buy it immediately, no matter how crappy it sounded.  I think the iPad will be great for notation and remote control.

TC Electronic makes stomp boxes that can connect to the web.  You can download your favorite guitar player's settings and upload them into your pedal and use those settings on your gig later.  Music Man made a pickup system called "the game changer."  It allows you to connect your guitar to a computer and choose any kind of pickup configuration your could dream of and store it to any switch on the guitar. For example. I have a country gig tonight, so I setup up my pickup selector to have all single coil sounds and some thinned out, out of phase sounds.  Then I go to my gig, and that wiring is stored to my guitar.  No need for the computer. The next night I have a metal gig, so I can put everything back to standard humbucking sounds.  I think there's also a way to program it from the guitar, without the computer, but it seemed a lot easier to do it from the computer.

A lot of companies are following the Fender bandwagon and making distressed looking guitars. I played the Eric Clapton Les Paul model which is beat up to match his original. I liked it. ESP has guitars that look like their 50 years old which is funny, since ESP formed in the 80s.  Gretsch is also making a George Harrison duo jet that is all beat up.

I saw some very impressive sample libraries. I will be buying the Big Fish Audio Epic Orchestra plug in.  It sounds like the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and will work very well for the MorningStarlett album that I'm currently working on.  Vienna Instruments was awesome as usual.  Overall, the quality of these samples keeps getting better, but as a result, the prices and the gigabytes keep getting higher.

Everyone is looping now.  Most effects companies make looper pedals.  I got to see a bunch of very talented people using them, and they do some pretty incredible stuff. It has gone beyond just playing a few chords and then soloing over them.  I saw a Japanese girl named Naoryu perform a J-pop song by herself with a few loopers and sounded like a professionally produced pop song.  I'm inspired to get one of these loop stations.  I'd love to incorporate this into my gigs.

My favorite products at the show were: The Electroharmonix 44 caliber, The SM V-Machine, The Eventide Harmony Pedal, and The Peavey graphite acoustic travel guitar.  Of course I also loved everything at the TC, Engl, Dimarzio, and Music Man booths, but I always talk about that stuff.

The Electroharmonix 44 caliber is a 44 watt solid state guitar power amp that fits in the size of a very small stomp box.  It's smaller than a boss pedal.  It's really loud, and actually sounds quite good.  I heard it drive a 4x12 cabinet and I thought it sounded great.  I definitely want a couple of those. A pair of those and a pocket pod in my gig bag could be the perfect backup amp in case of emergency.

The Peavey graphite acoustic was very fun to play. They make a standard size version, but I was drawn to the travel size guitar.  It had a unique design and it sounded very good electrically which would be perfect for me.  It was pretty cool.

Eventide had some great pedals.  I really like the harmony pedal.  It does all the effects that I use, but in one very small pedal.  It's not as flexible as the Nova System, but it's so small that it would be a cool thing to get one day.  It has 4 part harmonizing in about 20 different scales in all keys with delay and modulation effects added.  It sounded great.

Finally, the SM V-Machine blew my mind.  It was the size of a Nintendo DS-Max.  But you could load all your VST plugins on it and use it as a MIDI module. It was pretty cheap too. I definitely want to get one to use with BOC.  I hope it's not too good to be true!

So there's my big NAMM report. I got see a lot of gear, and I was lucky enough to catch some great performances.

In closing, all I can say is, "I wish I had cool hair."